Pierce-Arrow Model 125 Custom Brougham

From the early days of the American automobile industry into the 1930s, prestige was the province of the “Three Ps”: Packard, Peerless, and particularly Pierce-Arrow.

Founded in 1865 in Buffalo, New York, Heintz, Pierce, and Munschauer made bird cages, and later other household wares, such as ice boxes and bathtubs. George N. Pierce bought out his partners in 1872 and renamed the company after himself. He added bicycles to the mix in 1896, and in 1900, he built a steam car. By that November, a gasoline-powered car was operating, and in 1901, the manufacturing of a DeDion-engined “Motorette” began. 

Through exceptional performance in the early Glidden Tours and popularity with trend-setting wealthy families, Pierce-Arrow became identified with Packard and Peerless as the “Three Ps” of prestige motoring. It’s natural to wonder what a modern Pierce-Arrow would look like, had the make managed to survive the Great Depression. This custom brougham provides a substantial hint.

Crafted in John Staluppi’s own workshops, this custom Pierce-Arrow was updated from a 1929 Model 125 Brougham. Retaining the classic brougham body, the craftsmen replaced the original Pierce straight eight and three-speed manual transmission with a 502-cubic inch Chevrolet big block powerplant and four-speed overdrive Hydra-Matic transmission. The straight front axle and leaf springs were exchanged for an early-1990s Corvette independent setup with rack-and-pinion steering, while a Ford nine-inch live axle was employed at the rear, suspended by longitudinal leaf springs. Power disc brakes are used all around. Original-style custom wire wheels are mounted with Goodyear 225/65 RT radial tires, while original-size Firestone 6.50-19s occupy the dual fender wells. The brougham body retains its crank-out windshield and landau irons, the exquisite Pierce archer adorns the radiator cap, and of course, the signature headlamps beam proudly from their fender mountings, while Pilot Ray driving lamps point the way through the dark. 

The interior is an inspired mix of original and modern components. The original Pierce steering wheel has been adapted to a tilt column, while original gauges remain in place on the dashboard. Turn signals have been subtly integrated into the exterior lighting, and a modern stereo mounts in an under-dash panel that also contains outlets for the air conditioning. Power steering completes the complement of driver and passenger comforts. 

Mr. Staluppi opted for period-appropriate brown mohair for upholstery, rather than more modern materials, and this harmonizes nicely with the brown carpet on the floor. The rear compartment is equipped with window shades, a lap robe bar, and vanities, while the windshield cranks out, in the fashion of the original car. 

The engine compartment gives further insight into the modern Pierce-Arrow idiom. The big block Chevy engine is exactingly detailed with chrome ancillaries and fittings. On the valve covers are large renditions of the familiar “Pierce” name pierced with an arrow, a logo mirrored on the door sills. Electric fans keep the huge engine cool in all climates.

This modern Pierce-Arrow is entirely in keeping with the marque’s image: powerful engine, smooth drivetrain, comfortable boulevard ride, excellent braking, and every conceivable creature comfort. If George Pierce were alive today, he would undoubtedly approve.

Model 125. 520 bhp, 502 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine, four-speed automatic overdrive transmission, coil spring front suspension, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel power hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 133 in.

Photo Credit: Teddy Pieper

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